Posts Tagged Cryptozoic

The State of the WoW TCG|Die Situation des WoW TCGs

In case you haven't noticed, the general mood in the WoW TCG community has been somewhat negative as of late. The main reason is the lack of an official OP schedule, which translates to “we don't know if there will be any events to enroll in next month”.

While some players are very (read: “overly”) “idealistic”, claiming that they'll even continue playing the game if all hell breaks loose and the zombie invasion is on its way, most of the veterans are ready to sell all their remaining cards as soon as they'll be convinced that “the game is done”.

I, personally, don't blame them. I've been there before. I have a number of binders and decks sitting at home, collecting dust, full of Vs. System cards that used to be worth the money you need to buy a lot of new furniture. And we're not talking Ikea here.
In fact, there was a time when I was working for a company, Upper Deck Entertainment, that was “hanging in the loose” for quite a while, not knowing whether they would be able to renew the license for their (back then) most important product, the Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG. My job depended on that. So I really know what it's like and when there's more on the line than “just your collection”.

Some of the older folks that have been around when UDE shut down know the signs and they aren't unfamiliar with the feeling of “hanging in the loose” that usually precedes the shutdown of a game. On a long enough time line, everyone's fascination with a game that's no longer getting continued drops to zero.

While there are somewhat understandable reasons for Cryptozoic not speaking up, I personally don't agree with the current strategy of the company. Please don't read this as “Oli doesn't like Cryptozoic” since that's not the case. I appreciate all the good things they've done for us in the past years and I dearly hope that they'll continue to produce a game that's helped me make a lot of friends and travel the world.

However, I still want to “break the silence” and provide a little more information regarding “the situation”. A large reason for the current unrest are misinformed players spreading rumors and there are few things that are more damaging in my personal opinion. In an effort to give you a better understand of what's going on, I decided to write this article. I didn't publish it on TheMetaMart on the A Question of Gluttony homepage or any other similar page that I'm involved with in a certain way since all of this is my personal opinion and it could be considered “anti-CZE”. So let's get started after this introduction of epic proportions, shall we?!

Why do we not have a confirmed OP schedule?

Cryptozoic EntertainmentThe very simple reason for the lack of news regarding official events is the fact that Cryptozoic doesn't know if they'll even be allowed to run the events in question. This has nothing to do with “finding a suitable venue”, “figuring out the best hotel to locate the staff for the respective event” or anything of the like.

Why does CZE not know whether they'll be able to run these events? It turns out that the official World of Warcraft license is running out (or has already run out). Some of you might remember the new A Question of Gluttony podcast host Matt Conner bringing this up a while ago since the license was “up for grabs” and this is “public knowledge” (since Blizzard is a publicly traded company and all, but don't ask me about the exact details).

CZE then reached out to the podcast team, asking us not to bring this up again. We didn't think of it as a big deal; quite the contrary in fact. To us, it seemed like all Cory (the CEO of Cryptozoic) needed to do was put his signature under a new licensing agreement and we'd be good for a few more years of WoW TCG fun.

As it now turns out, it's not such a “minor” thing after all. In fact, the lack of a licensing agreement between CZE and Blizzard is the root of all evil regarding the current situation.

Why is Reign of Fire still coming out if there's no licensing agreement?

This is rather simple: A licensing deal either tends to span a set amount of releases or it states something like: “After the end of the licensing deal, the licensing partner may still publish one more product they've been working on.” Again, don't ask me about the exact details, I'm not an expert regarding licensing agreements. All I want to say is the fact that Reign is being released does not mean that the licensing agreement has been renewed.

Why is Cryptozoic not talking openly about this?

I have been working for 2 gaming companies in my lifetime and I learned that their number 1 concern is the mood among the players. If only enough people think that “a game is dying”, a game will be dying. If Cryptozoic openly announces that they have been in talks with Blizzard for a number of weeks and they still couldn't close the deal, this will cause huge unrest in the community.

Cryptozoic tried a few strategies to avoid the naysayers taking over all the threads on their forums, making announcements like “we're working on block 8”. Unfortunately, these announcements are of no real value, since I'm currently “working on” a book that might either be released soon™ or never. I'm also pretty certain that Cryptzoic is “working on” the OP schedule. Further, I got a friend who's currently “working on” winning the lottery and yet another one is “working on” a project that will – according to him – make millions once it's finished. His official launch date? To be announed.

In other words, a company telling you that they are “working on” something is a company not being able to confirm something to you; IF they would be able to tell you with absolutely certainty that “Set X will be released at this and that date”, they would usually do exactly that. The latter is a confirmation and there's a big difference between that and a statement claiming that it's their intention to do something. It's “just” an attempt at buying time and nothing else.

This is basically my biggest issue when someone asks me about what the company is doing wrong at the moment. Cryptzoic's foundation, according to their own company statement, used to be “fans first”. It was impossible to argue this the first few days and weeks after the company took over the WoW TCG. Ben Drago, may god have mercy on his soul, responded to each and every forum thread, answering every single question that popped up, even if it was the 5th time he came across it that day.

Nowadays, we receive the mushroom treatment – we're kept in the dark and we're fed shit.

This is, in my humble opinion, more damaging to the game and the company as a whole when compared to openly speaking about the issues. People – or, more specifically, fans – will forgive you if you mess up as long as you tell them what's going on and why you've messed up.

The Affiliate Program was shut down without as much as a mass e-mail. I haven't heard any official volunteer news in months apart from the bi-monthly posts about the “volunteer of the month” (and even those have rarely been on time). And this list goes on.
The way I see it, we are currently dealing with a huge lack of communication and it's harming the company in the worst way possible; fans are losing their trust in the company and sometimes, this is all a gaming company can rely on. Trust is the number one reason why every new Blizzard game is a hit – enough players simply trust Blizzard to produce another hit because they tend to put their heart and soul into the game in question.

We can currently watch how antipathy is building up against the company in a large part of the community. Some of the most dedicated volunteers openly stated that they consider dropping the ball despite the fact that they worked long and hard to put their local playgroup together. Some of them approached me and told me that they would prefer if Cryptozoic would just announce that the game will be over just so they would finally know what's going on (naturally, they quickly pointed out that they would prefer to see the game being continued). What I'm saying is: People are starting to consider taking “drastical” measures.

This is the reason why I felt that this article was necessary. Bear with me a few more minutes so I can talk about a few other things that are related to the issue at hand before I'll let you be the judge whether I am being helpful or not.

I haven't been around in the Upper Deck Entertainment days, how is it not just the same thing happening all over again?

In case you didn't know, Upper Deck Entertainment or short UDE was the company that was responsible for getting the WoW TCG off the ground in the first place. The other big license that the company had and that helped them becoming the number 1 seller of Trading Card Games (at the time) in North America was the Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG.

Since the head of UDE was even greedier than your average CEO, he decided that they should attempt to squeeze even more money out of Yu-Gi-Oh! by …

… producing fake cards.

I know this one is a little hard to swallow, so take your time, but believe me when I say that this is exactly what went down.

What UDE did was coming up with a list of very sought-after cards – some of which hadn't even been published in the US – and they then packed them together with some old product (this is generally called a “repack”), selling it to Toys'R'Us and other larger retailers.

Unfortunately, even though they had perfect information with .pdf versions of all cards ever printed, it was possible to identify the cards that they produced on second sight, making this one of the worst executed fake jobs in the history of faking stuff…

(Don't get me wrong, I'm not encouraging this kind of behavior…)

Konami, one of the license holders of the YGO TCG, traced the fakes back to UDE. They then sued them and UDE did what it always did when it got dragged into court – it bought itself out of the whole thing and released a press release that made it look like they had been the winning party (in case you want to read a little more about the case, this article that comments on the press releases is a probably a good starting point).

Still, everyone knew what happened. It couldn't have been that much more obvious. This was a huge blow to UDE's reputation and it eventually led to the company's demise. Blizzard didn't renew the WoW TCG license, Upper Deck later also lost a license for the MLB, for which they had produced Trading Cards before, and a few short years after, they went bankrupt if I'm not all too mistaken (I have to admit there was a point where I pretty much stopped caring and I didn't follow the whole thing too closely. Also, the UDE president died because of his worsening condition that probably had something to do with the consumption of alcohol if an overwhelming amount of evidence is to be believed).

So what I'm saying here is that the situation between what happened back in the (not so) good (but still) old UDE days and what's happening at the moment is not the same. Cory Jones is a different kind of CEO and I don't think he would consciously do something to piss Blizzard off big time or severly damage the reputation of his own company.

Which brings us right to the next larger rumor…

Is Hex the reason why the companies can't come to an agreement?

My personal opinion is that this has nothing to do with it. Like I said, Blizzard originally handed the license to UDE, a company that was also distributing the Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG, which is a product “in direct competition” with the WoW TCG. So it appears Blizzard doesn't care too much what other products the respective company they're giving the license to is selling.

I'm not sure whether they would give it to Wizards of the Coast since Magic is a lot more similar to the WoW TCG than Yu-Gi-Oh! and even they might feel like this is pushing it a bit, but an online only Card Game shouldn't be that big of a deal.

What about Hearthstone?

Is this a serious question?

Did you play Hearthstone? It is not a TCG. The target audience for Hearthstone is your average facebook zombie that sends you invites for SimFarm. It's a game “for in-between”, like when you're riding the bus and you're on your way to a friend, but it's nothing that you'll be playing competitively and where you'll invest several hours a week to playtest and build decks.

On top of all of this, Blizzard is using artworks for Hearthstone that have been used for the WoW TCG before. So their own game is benefitting from the fact that they're having some other party produce a WoW based card game. Therefore, it should be in their interest to continue the WoW TCG as far as Hearthstone is concerned.

I heard Blizzard wants to pull all the loots from packs and that's why CZE is considering discontinuing the game?

Granted, this rumor is not totally out of this world. Back when the fourth (!) set was coming out, there were a number of fans of the online game that complained about the loots. According to them, it wasn't fair that they “had to” pay lots of money to be able to ride on a Saltwater Snapjaw or get their hands on a Spectral Tiger.

Someone at Blizzard took these people way too serious and the company did in fact consider pulling the loots. But that was roughly five (!) years ago and to my best knowledge, this hasn't been a bigger topic ever since.

Also, if it actually were the case that Blizzard doesn't like loots, why in the world would they agree to a million loots being released in Reign of Fire? Just something to think about, so I don't think there's anything behind this rumor.

So why can't they come to an agreement?

Ah, finally, the one million Dollar question. There are a number of possible reasons that are still standing after this wall of text:

  1. Blizzard wants more money

    This is the most simplistic reason of them all. So far, Blizzard made x amount of Dollars everytime Cryptozoic sold a pack and in the future, they want to make x and something more. Cryptozoic doesn't agree and claims that they wouldn't be making enough money to sustain the OP program as well as the other costs (employees, etc.) that come with distributing the game and they try to renegotiate. Which is obviously not really working with Blizzard not willing to give in.

  1. Blizzard isn't pleased with CZE for some other reason

    While this is possible, I can't come up with an exclamation that will still stand at the end of the day. I don't think that Blizzard is too upset with the direction the game has been taking or at least not upset enough to consider not renewing the license. Yes, I also dislike the fact that the game is “all about allies” at the moment as much as the next guy, but I don't think that Blizzard will get too upset about this. For the most part, it is a well-executed version of the MMO and I don't think anyone else could do a better job than Cryptozoic is doing at the moment (we're talking about R & D here).

  2. Blizzard thinks there's no reason to renew the license

    I've heard that Blizzard hasn't renewed any other WoW license they've been handing out over the course of the past few years. I'm not 100 % certain about this, but according to this rumor, there's only been 1 WoW board game and the company that produced it never followed it up and the same remains true for WoW related toys and all that other WoW based stuff.

    In a way, this makes it sound like Blizzard is always “pulling back” the license after 3 years. However, since that's not how your usual publicly traded company is operating (usually, they are quite interested in making money and milking their licenses as much as possible), I find it hard to believe. Especially considering that there will be a WoW movie coming out soon√¢‚Äû¬¢.

  3. There's another company that's interested in picking up the license

    Generally speaking, this is a possibility. I just don't think it's very likely since there are very few companies that come to mind.

    Even if I'm wrong and there is in fact another company that's trying to get their hands on the license, all they could do is hand in their offer, Blizzard would pick one of the two (either Cryptozoic's or the one of the other company that's interested in the license) and things would then continue as normal (more or less). So I don't see how this process can take 3 or more months and therefore, I also consider it unlikely this is the case.

What does CZE need to do to fix things?

  • In my personal opinion, it would be best if the company could clarify what's going on and what's been keeping them for so long.
  • Then, they need to step up their game regarding Community Management. If someone asks what the status is regarding the prizes for event x, they should receive a reply in less than 24 hours (in a perfect world, no one would ever feel the need to ask this question…). The same goes for all the other questions that haven't been addressed in a very long time.
  • They have to avoid running a WoW TCG event and then ONLY announcing stuff for Hex. I play WoW, I'm somewhat excited about Hex, but when I go to a WoW TCG event like the NACC, first and foremost, I want to hear WoW TCG related news. If all the announcements of “things to come” are Hex-related, it's almost impossible not to think that they intend to drop WoW and concentrate all their resources on Hex.
  • They have to finalize the OP schedule. This one should be easy and straightforward enough.
  • They need to ensure that sets, promotional materials, Battleground kits and all of these things are delivered in time. Never, and I mean never, should a player have to fear that there might not be any boosters at his local Sneak Preview since the set is behind schedule. If I'm attending my local Battlegrounds, I always want to be able to reap the rewards for my efforts right then and there. Not 3 weeks later.

These are the things on top of my list. Also, that's all from my end. I understand that there are still a few things that haven't been covered in this article, but for the time being, a little more than 3.000 words will have to do.

I really hope that this article helped you understand some of the things that are currently going on. There's still a good chance Blizzard and Cryptozoic will come to an agreement sometime soon (no â„¢ this time) and once that happens, I have no doubts we'll have a finalized OP schedule just a few days later. Things will then look great again, so don't panic too much.

If it really doesn't happen, prepare for the zombie apocalypse.

In the meantime, please stop spreading rumors. Oh, and please do me a favor and let me know whether you think if this article has been helpful or if I'm just adding more fuel to the fire, making things worse.
In any case, I dearly hope that my motivation to write this article shone through; I only want the best for the game and that's why I try to put an end to some of the poisonous rumors that are making things worse. So yeah, let me know whether I succeeded or not.

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Essen Toy Fair Spiel 2010|Das war die Spiel in Essen 2010

spiel-essen-2010-logo

The last 5 days, the Spiel in Essen was held – the largest gaming fair in the world (yes, that includes the GenCon). My good friend Christian asked me ages ago to not plan something for this very weekend, however, just 7 days prior to the faire, I was still not sure if I would or should go. In the end, I decided to make the trip (despite the train tickets being ridiculously expensive) to catch up with some of my friends, have some talks with Amigo, Cryptozoic, Konami and… well, play some card games.

My friends from Cryptozoic and Konami were caught up in meetings most of the time and there wasn't too much to talk about with Amigo, so I checked out the rest of the faire after I played some cards (on Saturday, I went 2 – 1 in the draft besides playing a horrible deck and on Sunday, I won the tournament which in turn gut me an Archives Uncut Sheet). It was probably the first time I was able to check out the faire; in the past I always helped out at some booth and was pretty caught up. Anyway, I came across the booth of the great guys from Gary Games, who introduced their very own game to the visitors: Ascension.

Ascension Board Game (Chronicle of the Godslayer)

My friend and former colleague (back in the Upper Deck days) Ryan O'Connor gave me a demo of the game and I had to say I liked it. I'm not a huge board game person, but Ascension is a little like a mix between a board and a trading card game. Some claim it's just another Dominion clone”, but even though it's also a “deckbuilding game” (a game in which you're building and improving your deck while the game's underway), there are some bigger differences between the two games (most notably: You never know what's coming in Ascension while you can decide on a strategy for Dominion right at the beginning of the game – I guess that's something intriguing to TCG players and that's why I feel like Ascension is the better fit for me).

I was lucky enough to get to know some of the cool guys from Gary Games better, including the owner (and Magic Hall of Famer) Justin Gary. I learned that Ascension has picked up a lot of momentum in the US and they're still in the process of getting it on track in Germany. Fortunately, I could be of help to the guys and make some introductions, so hopefully we'll soon see it in game store shelves all over Germany. You really should give it a try or at least check out the website of the game: AscensionGame.com.

I also received a The Spoils demo. It seemed to be a good TCG, however, it seems to suffer from the same problem that already killed Vs. System: It's simply too complex for mediocre players to master, so they'll eventually get frustrated, getting beaten up by veteran players over and over again. It's too early for me to give you a recommendation, but I guess I'll keep you posted (don't expect me to drop the WoW TCG for any other TCG, that's not gonna happen).

The upcoming weekend, I'll be in Leipzig for the 5 year celebration of the local Enchilada. On Friday evening, we'll also be playing some other games and among them will be Ascension (and maybe also The Spoils). So expect some more information about the new games soon!

Let me know what you think about the Spiel and the games (in case you tried them already).

P.S.: Now, you can also find a review of Ascension in darkpact's gaming Blog.

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The big problem of the WoW TCG|Das große Problem des WoW TCGs

Cryptozoic Entertainment

The World of Warcraft Trading Card Game has a problem.

Wait a minute, let me start all over again: The WoW TCG has a number of problems. However, one problem is overshadowing 'em all: The game is really fucking awesome. The problem with amazing products is that they tend to attract passionate people. Very passionate people. The kind of people that not only like a particular product, the kind of people that tend to fall in love with a product. Sometimes, this goes so far that they start to identify theirselves with the particular product.

So far, so good. You may ask yourself: What's the big deal; what's the problem? Well, here's the thing: Passionate people also tend to live in extremes. If a product they fell in love with is not living up to their expectations anymore (for whatever reason), their strong feelings start to turn into the opposite – which would be hate in this case. Now this might sound a little far-fetched, however, most of you have seen what happened when Matt Markoff didn't see his money for a while. It takes more than a little (alright, granted: a very long) wait for someone like Matt Markoff to start an epic rant.

What I'm saying is this: Matt was getting SO very angry because he loves this game SO very fucking much. Therefore, he really wants to see it succeed. And if that doesn't happen, he gets all crazy. If you've ever been in love with someone and the person hurt you in some way, you might have also experienced your strong feelings turning into lots of anger or even something close to hate (and if you were able to clear up the misunderstanding afterwards, reverting back to love once more). Now this ain't about Matt. He's far from being the only one, there are hundreds of WoW TCG players that really love this game.

Amigo

Now, back to the other problems at hand. In case you haven't heard, the Release Celebrations for the German product of the upcoming WoW TCG set Icecrown have been cancelled. And this after they had been re-scheduled. Twice. What sounds like a very bad joke is the sad truth. One more thing: I consider myself one of the players that really love this game.

Now all you need to do is putting the pieces together and you know why I'm trying to avoid commenting on the latest happenings in the WoW TCG. Therefore, I guess it's best to pass the mic and ask for your opinion. Let me know what you got in mind for the WoW TCG and what you hope to see in the future.

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